Bengaluru-based Ninjacart started operations in 2015 as a B2C hyperlocal grocery model delivering fresh produce to consumers directly from retailers. The company’s founders soon realized that the food supply chain relies too heavily on intermediaries and last-mile delivery. To simplify the processes and improve the ability to handle more advanced logistics, the company started working as a B2B supply chain company selling vegetables and fruits directly to retailers, restaurants, and businesses across major cities.
Thirukumaran Nagarajan, co-founder, and chief executive officer of Ninjacart, says, “We have eliminated the intervention of middlemen, backed the entire food supply chain with robust technology and analytics. We have developed a controlled distribution channel between the stakeholders eradicating inconsistencies and price volatility.”
Technology differentiates Ninjacart
According to Nagarajan, Ninjacart delivers tons of fresh produce to retailers and wholesaler’s doorsteps in less than 12 hours without sacrificing freshness. “Technology has helped us to ensure the supply chain’s efficiency and our operation’s profitability. We work with farmers as partners and help them with demand forecasting, harvest planning, and better pricing. By giving them a week’s notice of what is expected from them, we make them aware of the demand and supply gaps.
“Also, we set pricing information before harvesting by standardizing both purchasing and selling prices using an average of national prices to avoid price risk. The fresh produce is sold within a few hours of being picked up, and an immediate confirmation is sent via SMS to the farmer about payment generation within 24 hours.”
Apart from farmers, Ninjacart also works with retailers by putting its inventory online and accepting their orders through the Ninjacart app. The retailers get access to a wide variety of vegetables and fruit hygienically handled in crates with the convenience of doorstep delivery.
Nagarajan explains, “Through (RFID) radio frequency identification, the exact location of the product is sent from the app as the products move through various centers to the retailers ensuring 100% traceability. They enjoy other benefits like managing inventory online, market demand, price, daily updates, and secured digital payment.” Ninjacart also maps the best routes for its transport drivers to reach their destinations with clearly identified points.
Farmers get the right value for their produce
The Ninjacart process works right from weekly forecasting to fresh produce from farmers and ultimately delivery to the retailers. Nagarajan explains further, “Farmers associated with Ninjacart get the right value for the product as we predict the price ahead of the harvesting process and help them plan their harvest accordingly. With the recent ‘Harvest the Farm’ initiative launched during the lockdown, in partnership with hyperlocal communities like Swiggy, Zomato, and Dunzo, we have helped farmers to sell their produce directly to the end consumer. We have done this at a better price and expanded our farmers’ outlets exponentially.”
Ninjacart educates farmers on the better seed varieties and suggests best practices for harvesting. “We have helped farmers realize a 20% rise in their income, enabling them to spend more time on the farm without visiting the market early in the morning.”
Impact of Covid-19
The impact of Covid-19 was visible across the entire supply chain. Restricted movement in specific areas and cities made the supply chain vulnerable, and sourcing fresh produce from farmers was a significant challenge. “To minimize the losses to farmers, we partnered with local government bodies and sourced passes that gave us special privileges to carry out the necessary operations,” says Nagarajan.
“Ninjacart has launched multiple initiatives to meet consumers and farmer needs and support them with our technological know-how and innovation amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Our team worked throughout these difficult times to ensure that the supply chain was running smoothly with whatever little resource available.”
Quality sourcing with track & trace
Ninjacart influences the quality of produce throughout the supply chain network. Nagarajan asserts, “With the FoodPrint infrastructure innovation, we control the quality and monitor fresh produce in the entire supply chain. The framers are the only ones that have had direct contact with the produce. At the retailer point, traceability ID is mapped to the customer order.”
“Our partnership with Swiggy, Zomato, Dunzo, and other online platforms allows the end consumer to trace the fresh produce back to its origin. A single QR code on the final package gives information about the farmer who harvested the produce, the warehouse that processed it, the retailer who bought it, and the route it took to get delivered at the doorstep.”
Ninjacart witnessed an increase in awareness about the company among end consumers as it shifted from B2B to B2C during the lockdown. Nagarajan says optimistically, “We intend to strengthen the supply chain that will add value for stakeholders at all levels. For that, we are investing heavily in machine learning to improve forecasting, pricing engine optimization, and crop recommendation to farmers based on our five years of research.” He says that the company is not planning any mergers and acquisitions currently and is purely focused on adding value in the agriculture sector for the price paid by the end consumers and to the efforts put in by the farmers.